We are gathered here to praise God, to witness to our faith, and to give thanks for the life of our brother Richard. Richard is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather, a son, a brother, and all the rest, but most importantly Richard is a child of the true and living God.
Before we turn to the Word, I have to make a caveat here. When I visited Richard in the hospital and asked him about this day, the funeral for his death. He made sure that I would not spend my time in front of you speaking highly of him. He did not want me to give a biography of his life, or a record of his accomplishments. He told me, “Keep it short” and being a minister of the Word I am here to give you Jesus, the Resurrected One, in whom Richard’s life is hidden. I am not to direct you to Richard, but to the King who has conquered death and lives to die no more, who, in fact, lives that death may die.
That is what Richard wanted, and it is my job to trust and obey.
The Scripture reading is from John 14:1-7.
At this point in Jesus’s life, remember that it was He who was about to suffer the agony of the cross and the grave. Jesus is the One troubled in heart and spirit, and we would expect that the disciples would be the ones comforting Him. And yet, Jesus is the One who continues to give. Jesus comforts and instructs. If a man is about to die, we would expect that he would be the one needing comfort. Instead, Jesus is comforting those around Him even in His impending suffering.
These words, “do not let your hearts be troubled” are certainly given to us, but they were originally given to the disciples who would all fail their Lord. They would betray Him, run away from Him in His time of need. They would abandon their Lord. And Jesus commands them in this moment, “Don’t be troubled.”
When suffering is near, the Word of Jesus to us, “Calm yourself.” He does not say that we are not allowed to grieve, or to feel sorrow, or to even pray and ask that the Father would do something different. No, Jesus says that when trouble, sorrow, loss, are looming on the horizon, or if you are in the thick of it, such as we are this day, we are to calm our hearts.
The way that believers are to calm their hearts is given to us in a statement. Jesus reminds His disciples of their faith. “You Believe in God, you believe also in Me.”
At this point the disciples were all told that Peter would betray Christ. They were told of Judas’ betrayal. And they were told that Jesus would leave them. The disciples have troubled hearts right now. Everything is about to fall apart.
And Jesus says, “You trust God; You trust Me.” Jesus is making Himself an equal object of faith with the Father. He speaks the Word of God and He does the will of God, and He calls His disciples to trust Him as they trust God. If Jesus tells His followers not to let their hearts be troubled, He must have a reason for saying so.
This is not some empty word to the disciples to bypass a hard discussion, or to ignore the future suffering that was coming. Jesus acknowledged all that was about to happen to Him and to His disciples, and He says, “Don’t be troubled.”
Jesus gives the reason for this. His departure is for their benefit. It is true that Jesus was about to leave them, but He is leaving them to prepare a place for them, so that when they pass from this life to the next, they may be near Him.
What more could we ask for?
The Father’s house is the heavens above and Jesus has prepared places for everyone of His followers to join Him in His Father’s home.
Now Jesus says He is going to prepare a place for His people. Remember that before this passage Jesus spoke to His disciples of the cross and grave and all that must come soon. This is the going of Jesus. This is the way in which Christ makes it possible for us to be with Him and the Father.
The place in heaven is there, and Jesus must go to the sufferings of the cross and the darkness of the grave to secure our redemption and place in the heavenly home.
If Jesus goes through that for the sake of His people, there is no reason to doubt His next words, “I will come back and take you to be with Me.” This is love. You belong to Jesus and He has prepared a dwelling place for you.
This is not meant to be taken apocalyptically, it is not cryptic, but these words are meant to give comfort to the people of God. This of course, refers to Christ coming back and not to the death of the saints, and yet these words bring immense comfort.
Jesus has not come back yet and so there are further words of encouragement. Jesus tells us, “You know the way to Me.”
The disciples, a bit bewildered, still don’t understand. “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we get there?”
Jesus’s answer is well known to us, isn’t it? “I Am the way, the truth, and the life.” Another way to say this would be that Jesus is the true and living way.
Jesus is making a way to the places in heaven for the people of God and He declares that He is the way. Jesus is the way to God precisely because He is the truth of God. He is God’s self-disclosure, the Word made flesh.
Jesus is the life because He has life in Himself. He is the resurrection and the life.
And only because Jesus is the truth and the life can He be the way for others to come to God. The way to dwell in the presence of the Father is through a person. “The way to heaven,” Jesus says, “is Me.”
Jesus is the One who mediates the truth of God and the life of God in such a way that He is the only way to God, and Him alone. He is the One who proclaims, “no one can come to the Father except through Me.” Thus, His words to the disciples, “Believe God; believe Me.” Faith is the instrument by which we obtain the life of Christ.
Family, we are here to mourn the death of a loved one. We are here to be reminded of the goodness of God.
And we all need to know that Richard’s life has not ended. Don’t you recall the Words of Scripture? Death has no victory where Christ reigns. Death has no sting where Christ has claimed. Our hearts and minds think that Richard’s life was swallowed up in death and we drift off to despair and anguish, but the promise of Scripture is that Richard’s passing from this life has been swallowed up in Life, the True Life.
Through Richard’s baptism and faith it has been declared that he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. Christ lives and therefore our beloved brother, Richard, lives. There is only one way to God the Father and that is through Jesus.
What is important about this, family, is that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. This may sound obvious, but we often forget it. Listen carefully: Christ had to die to be resurrected, and we should not be surprised that those who belong to Christ must undergo the same. Do not let your hearts be troubled! Believe God and believe in Jesus.
Christ lived the perfect life. Richard did not, neither can you, or I. But Christ has come as the way, the truth, and the life, in this world, in history, and He says, “Let me do that for you.”
He takes the Law of His Father and He obeys it, perfectly. He takes the sins of His people, and He suffers for us perfectly. He was laid in the dust of the grave where we were supposed to be condemned, and He overcomes death and extinguishes God’s wrath and receives power and authority and everlasting life and He says to us, “This is for you.”
What is it, do you think, that Richard would want you to know?
He would want you to know Jesus crucified for you. Jesus resurrected for you. Jesus living for you. All of Jesus for all of you. That’s what he would want you to know.
Are your hearts troubled? The answer is the life and death of Jesus. Behold, in Jesus’s death death is finished. Through Jesus’s resurrection tears are finished, they will be wiped away. All of our doubts and anxiety are finished, for Christ holds our lives and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it. In the death and resurrection of Jesus all of our despair is turned to joy and hope and Jesus says to the church, “Trust in God; trust also in Me.”
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.